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Panthers stifle Saints

January 09, 2005|by BILL STERNER/Staff Correspondent

HANCOCK - St. James boys basketball coach Mike Brooks made it a point to stop Hancock senior Brad Spielman, who came into Saturday's game with the reputation as the Panthers' gunslinger in the backcourt.

The Saints did a good job, holding Spielman to a season-low two baskets and 10 points.

If Hancock were a one-man team, St James (0-6) may have been in the game.

As it turned out, the Panthers (9-1) shifted its game from the perimeter to the paint, feeding the ball to 6-foot-8 senior Jeff Willison and junior Dylan Shives as the Panthers ran away from the Saints, 77-54.

Willison, who recorded his fifth double-double of the season with 22 points and 12 rebounds, and Shives, who had 18 points and eight rebounds, were too much for the Saints as the Panthers won their eighth in a row.

"We are playing about as solid as we expected to be at this point in the season," Hancock coach Jeff Spielman said. "We really didn't know what to expect with (St. James)."

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But what the Panthers quickly found out was that the Saints' relatively inexperienced backcourt would have trouble handling the pressure of Hancock's full court press.

"Basically, Hancock is a great team," Brooks said. "They exposed our inexperience at guard and our lack of aggressiveness early on."

Leading 13-2 with just under a minute left in the first quarter, the Panthers locked a devastating press on the Saints and closed out the quarter with a 10-2 run to take a 23-4 lead.

"That may have been the key right there," Brooks said. "After that run, we played pretty even. Our guys got more aggressive and settled down."

St James began attacking the Panthers' wings and outscored Hancock 18-17 in the second period.

However, with Willison and Shives loose underneath, the Panthers outrebounded the Saints by a 2 to 1 ratio. Willison also had eight blocked shots while Shives pulled down nine rebounds.

"Willison is a tremendous player," Brooks said. "He knows how to play the low post and (Hancock) worked to get him the ball."

Shannon Strange led the Saints with 11 points. Brad Spielman had six steals and eight assists for Hancock.

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